With “The Summit of the Gods” shaping up as one of the major draws of this year’s online Annecy Work in Progress section, Didier and Damien Brunner’s Paris-based Folivari is teaming with France’s Gaumont on a second signature animated feature, “The Nazis, My Father and Me.”
Putting its large weight behind the title, Gaumont will co-produce, distribute in France and handle world sales on the coming of age action-thriller set in October 1941 New York City, just weeks before the U.S. finally entered WWII.
News of the Gaumont deal comes as Folvari has moved into production on animated feature “Ernest and Celestine: A Journey in Charabia,” the sequel to the Oscar-nominated original.
For French animation, such moves are signs of the times. With Gaumont on board for “The Nazis, My Father and Me,” Folivari is now working with some of the highest-profile and weightiest film-TV companies in France. Wild Bunch is selling “The Summit of the Gods”; Studiocanal is co-producing and handling French distribution and international sales on Folivari’s “Ernest and Celestine: A Journey in Charabia.”
That’s hardly surprising. Didier Brunner has produced or co-produced four films that have scored five Academy Award nominations: 1997’s “The Old Lady and the Pigeons,” 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville,” 2009’s “The Secret of Kells” and 2012’s “Ernest and Celestine.” That’s catnip for platforms seeking to establish their brand as premium entertainment purveyors.
Folivari’s Inca empire-set “Pachamana” was already acquired by Netflix for the world outside French-speaking territories.
Animated features remain one of the most resilient of film types in terms of cinema theater performance. When released with sufficient P & A muscle, Brunner’s movies can perform well in France, the original “Ernest and Celestine” selling 1.14 million tickets in France in 2012, the equivalent of an around $8 million theatrical gross.
“The Nazis, My Father and Me” also marks a move by Folivari towards larger audience entertainment of substance. In it, Stevie, a highly intelligent 12-year-old, sees his father disappear right before his eyes, and sets out to track him down, menaced by Nazi thugs, uncertain as to whether his father could really be a Nazi spy, and aided by Miriam, a refugee Jewish classmate.
Folivari has attached Peter de Sève, renown for his The New Yorker cover designs, for the film’s character designs. De Seve’s animation work takes in characters from “A Bug’s Life,” “Finding Nemo,” “Robots,” “The Little Prince,” and the “Ice Age” films.
“We aim to draw and paint New York as a character,” said Damien Brunner.
“What comes across in ‘The Nazis, My Father and Me’ is the story of two children lost in New York, Brooklyn and Queens, hunted by the German secret police,” he added.
He continued: “We wanted to find a story that takes place in New York. It’s a very graphic city that is fascinating and attractive for animation, he added, saying that whenever he visits New York it’s a “coup de coeur” – love at first sight. “We want to make a film which drives straight to the heart of the spirit of New York,” and De Sève helps that.”
“The Nazis, My Father and Me” is directed by Remy Schaepman, a La Poudrière alum who co-directed “Dodudindon, the opening short at the 2009 Annecy Festival, and also carried out the 2D animation sequences on 2019 live action “My Family and the Wolf.” He will make his debut feature with “The Nazis, My Father an Me.”
Stéphan Roelants’ Luxembourg-based Melusine Productions has signed on to co-produce “The Nazis, My Father and Me,” also produced by Tchack, which has handled graphic research.
“The Nazis” will be shot in traditional 2D and CGI for backgrounds, though the proportions have yet to be determined, said Didier Brunner.
“Ernest and Celestine: A Journey in Charabia” is directed by Julien Chheng and Jean-Christophe Roger. It’s an excellent tandem between two great directors, one who started out as a talented animator and the other a seasoned TV director,” said Didier Brunner.
Stephane Roélant’s Studio 352/Melusine Productions has boarded as one of its lead producers, with Folivari. Fost, Folivari’s animation studio, is supplying animation on the Apple TV Plus title “Wolfwalkers,” directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and produced by Cartoon Saloon, for which Didier Brunner co-produced “Secret of Kells.”
“We are building links with companies that have the same priorities in Europe as us, such as Panique!, Studio 352/Mélusine Productions, Cartoon Saloon and Doghouse Films and trying to develop synergies between these different European partners,” said Didier Brunner.